The Government today took a decision which will benefit hundreds of sufferers of the fatal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. The people affected were exposed to asbestos by Turner & Newall (T&N) the UK’s largest asbestos company which went into Administration in 2001.

The former Secretary of State John Hutton exempted T&N claims from compensation recovery provisions of the Social Security (Recovery of Benefits) Act 1997. This was because Federal Mogul's (T&N’s new owners) Chapter 11 bankruptcy exit plan resulted in T&N asbestos claimants receiving only a small fraction of their entitlement to compensation, in many cases as little as 17%. This exemption came in to force in 2006. At that time it was also understood that T&N claimants were entitled to the state payment under the Pneumoconiosis 1979 Act. It was further understood that the sum of both payments fell well short of the total amount claimants should have received. The Government gave a clear intention not to penalise T&N claimants twice.

Unite the union acted swiftly to bring to the attention of the Government a consequence of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 and related legislation which ran contrary to an agreement the union had brokered in 2006 to exempt T&N victims from the requirement to repay DWP benefits from their compensation. Because of the uniqueness of the T&N asbestos victims’ position special measures were needed to ensure that they were not unfairly penalised under the new legislation. The decision today reinstates the exemption for T&N claims from the Government’s Compensation Recovery Unit.

Derek Simpson Joint General Secretary of Unite said: “We are delighted that the Government has put this right. Had it not been for Unite’s prompt intervention this problem would have remained unchecked to the disadvantage of many mesothelioma sufferers and their families. This decision will benefit our members and countless other T&N asbestos victims who have suffered serious pain and loss of life, and it will aid their families who have to care for them.”

Ian McFall of Thompsons Solicitors, who represented Unite during the discussions with the Secretary of State, said: “The new legislation was intended to benefit people with mesothelioma but it also resulted in compensation payments to victims from the T&N Trust being drastically reduced or extinguished altogether. The determined action taken by Unite the union was instrumental in raising this issue at the highest possible level and achieving a fair and just political solution.